The University of Colorado has its first systemwide statement acknowledging that the lands where the four campuses are located were originally home to Indigenous peoples. While there are some campus units that have had such statements, the discussion about a systemwide statement was initiated by the CU Board of Regents.
“A year ago, Regent (Lesley) Smith and I met with students from our CU Indigenous community. They shared with us the importance of acknowledging that we reside on the homeland of Indigenous people,” said Regent Irene Griego. “At that time, I shared with President (Mark) Kennedy the importance of respectfully acknowledging the history and building a meaningful relationship with our Indigenous community. I am thankful that our administration has open the door to this effort. I support and look forward to building a collaborative, meaningful relationship and partnership between the University and Indigenous and Native communities.”
Regent Sue Sharkey shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m a strong believer in the importance of history and recognizing the good and the bad inherent in our shared history,” Sharkey said. “The Lands Acknowledgement Statement reflects that, by demonstrating respect and honoring the original inhabitants of the lands where CU’s campuses now stand.”
System Chief Diversity Officer Theodosia Cook worked with campus chief diversity officers, chancellors’ teams and departments and programs that focus on Indigenous studies to gather input on the statement. Members of the Board of Regents provided perspective as well. She also reviewed statements from other colleges and universities.
The Lands Acknowledgement Statement will be posted on system and campus websites, as well as be used in selected publications and at events. Campuses will determine whether they will tailor it for their specific uses.
Andrew Cowell, director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at CU Boulder, said the statement should serve the community and university well.
“The Land Acknowledgement is an important step toward strengthening the CU system, as it signals a willingness of the entire CU community to work in support of Indigenous knowledge, studies and community in Colorado,” Cowell said. “As a non-Indigenous person whose research focuses on the Arapaho and other peoples of this region, I look forward to helping build awareness, relationships and opportunities that will enrich all our lives, and that will especially serve the Indigenous people of this region more fully and justly.”
Cook said the effort to craft the statement was wide-ranging.
“We appreciate the engagement and conversations we had around the development of this statement and the input we received,” Cook said. “This is an important step for CU and it will help us take other important steps in the future.”